The bottom line: If you don't mind joining the credit union and funding the security deposit, this card can be a smart and effective tool to help build up your credit profile.
Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card
Recommended Credit Score
- 1X point per dollar spent
- No annual fees
- No balance transfer fees
Pros & Cons
Qualify with limited / bad credit
No annual fee
No foreign transaction fee
Must be a Navy Federal member
The Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is just about everything a secured card should be. It does require a security deposit, but there's no annual fee, and no unnecessary application or "account management" fees. Starting at six months — with good payment behavior — your account will be considered for conversion to unsecured status.
The Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card also comes with some extras not typically seen in secured cards, including rewards and cell phone protection.
For someone just beginning to get their financial footing, or anyone recovering from damaged credit, this card can be an excellent first step toward building a strong credit profile.
There's just one catch: You have to be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union to apply for the card. And to join that credit union, you have to meet certain eligibility criteria.
Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card: Basics and benefits
Card type: Secured.
Annual fee: $0.
Security deposit: Minimum $200.
Sign-up bonus: None.
Rewards: Earn one point per $1 spent. A point is worth about a cent and can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise or gift cards.
APR: The ongoing APR is 18.00%, Variable.
Foreign transaction fee: None.
Balance transfer fee: None.
Issuer: When you apply for the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card, you can choose to have Mastercard or Visa as your card's payment network. The perks and benefits differ slightly depending on which you choose.
Why you might want the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card
There are many secured cards on the market, but many tack on additional charges like account opening fees or annual fees. The only thing you'll pay upfront for the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a minimum $200 security deposit. The card also charges no foreign transaction fees, making it a good choice for use abroad. And there's no fee for balance transfers.
ACTIVITY REPORTED TO ALL THREE CREDIT BUREAUS
The Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card will report your activity to TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, the three major credit bureaus that collect the information used to calculate your credit scores. This means that with responsible payment behavior, you can work toward building good credit — generally, FICO scores of 690 and above — which can qualify you for more favorable rates on things like credit cards, auto loans and mortgages.
Potential to 'graduate' to an unsecured card
Starting at six months, Navy Federal will review your account for good payment behavior. If you qualify, it will return your deposit and convert your account to the unsecured Navy Federal Credit Union® cashRewards Credit Card.
Ability to earn Rewards
Cards designed for those with less-than-good credit don't always offer rewards, but the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card does. You'll earn one point for every net purchase you make on the card, and there's no limit on the rewards you can earn. Points are worth about a cent each and can be redeemed for cash back, merchandise or gift cards.
Cell phone protection
The Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is among a relatively small group of credit cards that offer cell phone insurance. Pay your monthly mobile phone bill with the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card and receive protection for your eligible phone. The maximum benefit varies slightly depending on whether your card is issued by Visa or Mastercard, but both cover damage and theft.
Why you might want a different card
There's a Membership requirement
Unless you or a family member is a current or former member of the military, or a Department of Defense employee, you're not eligible for membership to Navy Federal's credit union, which is a requirement for the card. If you are eligible and not already a member of the credit union, you still have to apply for membership and open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit. If the extra effort sounds like a headache, the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card doesn't require a credit check or any kind of membership. That application ease comes with a price, though: an annual fee of $35.
Security deposit required upfront
Although a $200 security deposit is typical for a secured card, it may still be a barrier for some, especially since the entire sum is required upfront. If a smaller or more flexible opening deposit is more appealing than earning rewards, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® can give you an initial credit line of $200 for a deposit of $49, $99 or $200, for those who qualify. And you can pay the deposit in installments. Terms apply.
If you simply can't afford a security deposit at all, some alternative credit card options could work for you.
High ongoing APR compared with other cards
The ongoing APR is 18.00%, Variable. That's on the high side, so if you think you'll need to carry a balance, this may not be a good choice for you. Instead, you might consider a card like the Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card. It offers a lower APR, but it does charge an annual fee.
Visit NerdWallet's roundup of top credit cards to get to see more options.
Is the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card right for you?
If you're looking for a secured card, and you meet Navy Federal Credit Union's eligibility criteria, the Navy Federal Credit Union® nRewards® Secured Credit Card is a great choice to get your credit score in shape while earning benefits along the way.
But if joining the credit union is out of reach or unpalatable — or if you're seeking a smaller potential opening deposit or a lower ongoing APR — you might be able to find a card that has a lower barrier to entry.
NerdWallet reviews are the result of independent research by our editorial team while cardholder reviews are contributions from independent users not affiliated with NerdWallet. Banks, issuers and credit card companies are not responsible for any content posted on the NerdWallet site, nor do they endorse or guarantee any posted comments or reviews.